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: Na pograniczu dwoch swiatow;IN THE NO-MAN’S-LAND BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

IN THE NO-MAN’S-LAND BETWEEN TWO WORLDS is a nonliteral, but perhaps the most informative, translation of this Polish-language work. It refers to the assimilated Jewish author’s difficulty of completely fitting into either the Jewish world or the Polish world.

In fact, and as noted by many authors, “assimilation” is an amorphous term. Though of course not written for this purpose, this memoir, by a high-ranking assimilated Polish Jew, helps the reader understand why the Endeks commonly doubted if assimilated Polish Jews are “real” Poles.

This memoir of Apolinary Hartglas (1883-1953), covers quite a range of Polish history—from life under tsarist Russia, through the Second Republic (1918-1939), WWII and the Nazi German occupation, and the early postwar period. Helpful comments, and biographical information, are provided by Jolanta Zyndul. For instance, one learns that industrialist and politician Leopold Kronenberg (1812-1879), a lifelong Jew, had converted to Christianity in 1845, had supported the Poles’ ill-fated January 1863 Insurrection, but was then ennobled by the tsarist Russian authorities in 1868. (p. 25).


The author was born, and grew up in, Siedlce, in Russian-ruled Congress Poland, in what is now the central part of eastern Poland. The language spoken at home was Polish, except when the parents wanted to hide something from the children. Then they spoke Yiddish. The family ate TREYF food, and did not observe the Sabbath. They only attended synagogue on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. (p. 30).

The young Apolinary disliked the traditional dress of non-assimilated Jews, and frowned on Jewish funerals, owing to the paid grievers and their loud wailing. He found Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic funerals much more dignified. (p. 31).

As a young boy, Apolinary, owing to his dislike for Jews even though he was one, used to run the local Jewish children off the town square. He indicates that the Polish children neither encouraged him in this conduct, nor took part in it. (p. 35).


Hartglas writes that he experienced countless acts of benevolence from Poles, and never personally suffered from Polish anti-Semitism. (p. 40, 46). While in GYMNASIUM (high school), he was once insulted by a Russian and once by a Pole. These incidents were resolved with fisticuffs, with Poles and Russians sometimes supported him. (pp. 46-47).

Apolinary Hartglas stated that he loved both the Polish and the Jewish nations. He also shared the Jews’ grief and anger at the wrongs that Jews faced from Poles, even though he himself did not experience them. (p. 19). At the same time, he felt many of the same grievances that many Poles—including even the “best” Poles—had against Jews. (p. 19).

Interestingly, Hartglas’ worst experiences were from fellow Jews. For instance, while a lawyer, he was exploited by Jews. Large numbers of Jewish clients would come to him, saying that they were destitute and in need of his services for free, even though they later turned out to be well-off. (p. 107).


Thirty Jews perished in the Siedlce pogrom, and Hartlas arrived soon thereafter to investigate the pogrom. Based on eyewitness accounts, he concluded that the perpetrators had been Russian soldiers, and not Poles. In fact, Poles had sheltered the Jews. (p. 88).

Hartglas also arrived, by train, to the area near Bialystok, the site of another pogrom. He plainly saw the train station surrounded by Russians. Some of them got on the train, and beat up a Jew. (pp. 90-91). Later, Hartglas and Jabotinsky spoke with eyewitnesses, and concluded that the perpetrators had been Russian police, soldiers, and youth. Very rarely had the perpetrators been Poles and Belarussians, who aided the Jews. (p. 91). Hartglas repudiated the tsarist Russian attempts to blame the pogrom on the Poles. (p. 92).


The leading Jewish assimilationist weekly, IZRAELITA, edited by Samuel Cwi Peltyn, supported Zionism. (p. 51). Hartglas said that his Jewishness was not a religion but a nationality, in the same way that Poles are a nationality. (p. 18, 54). What’s more, Hartglas plainly stated that he did not consider himself a Pole. (p. 55). In addition, Hartglas considered himself a Zionist. (p. 51). Zionism, by definition, was a form of loyalty to another state, and not only, or not at all, to Poland.


During some May 3 ceremonies in 1916, there was a speech given by a prominent Jewish speaker. The speech called for Jews to be granted full rights alongside Poles, while also fully retaining their rights to their own language and their own cultural separatism. (p. 174). Based on this, one might reasonably think that this Jewish speaker was part of the Yiddishist (folkist, or Bundist) variety. But no. It was Hartglas—the assimilated Polish Jew.

The foregoing confirms Endek accusations that Poland’s Jews wanted it both ways—to be Poles and NOT to be Poles. Is it any wonder that Endeks commonly doubted if assimilation would transform Jews into Poles?

Of course, there were also assimilated Polish Jews who considered themselves Polish by nationality. (pp. 190-192). However, it is unclear how common they were, and how many of them were unambiguously Poles first and Jews second.

Interestingly, Hartglas’ attitudes towards the Jewish national movement were not exactly flattering. Referring to the time around 1914, Hartlas stated that the idealistic assimilationist impulse was dead, that the Jewish national movement had by now grown immensely, and that—outside of Zionism—it had, in his words, “acquired distasteful, chauvinistic tones.” (p. 152).


During this time, Hartglas served in the Sejm (Polish parliament). Jews constituted about 10% of Poland’s population. The militant ONR (Oboz Narodowo Radykalny), demanded a reduction in the 40% share of Poland’s lawyers that were Jewish. Interestingly, the ONR did not call for the elimination of Poland’s Jewish lawyers. Instead, the ONR wanted the Jewish share of Poland's lawyers reduced to 5%. (p. 192).


The author gave his firsthand experiences with the German siege of Warsaw in 1939. He then described the Nazi creation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Hartglas knew Adam Czerniakow quite well. The author was candid about the fact that the Jews were involved in commercial activities with the Germans, including with the Gestapo. (p. 321).

The Nazis proposed that Jews be removed from among Poland’s lawyers. Leon Nowodworski (1889-1941), described by Hartglas as a strong anti-Semite despite his Frankist ancestry, and a National Democrat close in views to the ONR, replied without hesitation, (quote) If such a need arises in a free Poland, we ourselves will remove Jews from among our lawyers. But as long as this is a proposal from an occupant, then not only won’t we do this, but we will fight against the removal of our Jewish colleagues.” (unquote). (Translated by me). (pp. 295-296). Touche! This act of defiance by Nowodworski was a factor in his arrest by the Germans.

It is a rarely-known fact that some Jews were allowed to emigrate from German-occupied Poland in 1939 (p. 315). Hartglas did so, enabling him to escape the eventual Holocaust. He went to Palestine, where he spent the last several years of his life.
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